Read this article to learn about the meaning, need, scope and few quotations of educational psychology.
Meaning of Educational Psychology:
Broadly speaking, Educational Psychology is that branch of psychology which deals with education. It is not merely an application of psychology to the field of education, but because a large and growing body of data now available in the field of educational psychology can easily claim to be a special field of its own. Not only that, it contributes to understanding various problems of general psychology and social psychology as it deals with the child in the sphere of education.
This is a process not only of individual development but also a process of socialization as well. To understand the relation between educational psychology and general psychology, it is essential to understand the meaning of psychology in general; it’s various branches and their relations.
The Need and Importance of Educational Psychology for Education:
Educational psychology has been defined as that part of psychology which may be applied to various fields of education for different purposes. As such, educational psychology has also been defined as one of the most important foundations of education. The main objective of education is the promotion and guidance of human growth and development. Growth or development must always mean a kind of nurture that would allow that which was present from the beginning to grow or to develop and thus achieve an adult form. The child grows and develops into an adult being.
This growth and development cannot fully be described in quantitative terms. The constantly emerging series of new forms and functions of growth must be described qualitatively as well. A mature adult is qualitatively different from a child. For ages education has been believed to be the main instrument for discipline that leads a child for proper growth and development to his fullest possibilities.
The traditional system of education emphasised the disciplinary aspect of education only, without caring for the needs and desires of the child mind. Dickens’ “David Copperfield” (1850) gives us the cruel grim picture of child education in the nineteenth century England.
The Indian tols and pathsalas (traditional schools) also depict the same story of education by punishment and torture. Drill work was the only method of teaching. The main defect of the above system was that the child’s needs were ignored, and education was not based on psychology.
It was Rousseau (1712-1778) who first declared that the child should be the centre of education. Pestalozzi (1746-1827) tried to give shape to this theory. “All true and educative instruction must be drawn out of the pupils themselves, and must be born with them.” Pestalozzi respected the child- mind. Herbart (1776-1841), Froebel (1782-1852), Montessori (1870-1952) developed the application of psychology to education further.
Modern educators also admitted the psychological basis of education. John Adams said, “Verbs of teaching govern two accusatives, one of the person, another of the thing; as Majister Johannem Latinum docuit. The Master taught John Latin.” Drummond puts the importance of knowing the child-mind for a teacher beautifully, when he says, “The fundamental importance of a knowledge of children’s way to anyone who aspires to teach them is so obvious that one knows not whether to be more surprised that Rousseau should be credited with having been the first to base education entirely on the child to be educated, or that in doing so he was so much before his time”.
Whatever theory of teaching we accept, there is a definite psychological background behind it, and has to be justified from the psychological point of view. In other words, psychology should definitely be the basis of education, though being a positive science, the decision regarding the aims and ideals of education does not fall under its purview. “Although psychology cannot formulate the aims of education, a reliable psychology will tell us at once whether an aim is hopelessly in the clouds or whether it is possible of achievement”—Ross.
In other words, the ideals and aims of education, in order to be realistic, must be in accordance with the psychology of the child- mind. Education means to work with the nature of the child, and not against nature. Rousseau appeals to the teacher to love the child. “Encourage childhood; O men! Be humane; it is your foremost duty; love childhood; encourage its sports, its pleasures, its animal instincts.”
This view of Rousseau had a tremendous effect on the traditional educational systems of the middle ages. Throughout Europe, Rousseau’s voice went proclaiming the rights of childhood. In the modem age, the first recognition of educational psychology came with the appointment of E. L. Thorndike, C.H. Judd, Lewis M. Terman, Cyril Burt and others to university posts. Their work started after 1900. The utilisation of Alfred Binet’s (1857-1911) service in classification and identification of educationally backward and handicapped children in France in 1905 had become a history.
Since 1920, educational psychology has established itself having a special field of its own, whether in methods of teaching or technology of education, or evaluation of education, or assessment of education, maintaining mental health of pupils and teachers, selection of courses of study based on attitude and aptitude of pupils. In every field of education, we find contribution of educational psychology which has become a very special field of its own.
The Scope of Educational Psychology:
To understand the behaviour of human beings, especially children undergoing the process of education, the first important thing is to understand the needs of the learner in his various situations. The learner is an individual and as such a unique personality. So we have to understand the reasons of individual differences. So comes the problem of his heredity and environment. His environment means the social, cultural, economic, and spiritual environment as well. Woodworth puts the question in his superb style, “Shall the gardener pin his hope on careful cultivation of the soil or on selection of the best seed?”
The problems of the personality development, the emotional, social and intellectual development of the child, thus occupy a very important part of educational psychology. To understand the mental development of the child, one must also study the physical development of the child. In fact, the behaviorists have placed a great importance of understanding the physical behaviour of the person.
Hence, the study of physiology, specially, the working of the nervous system, relation between body and mind, the structure and function of the various senses, and the glands also is to be studied. The factor of intelligence, its measurement, differences of individuals in respect of intelligence is a matter of great importance to the teacher. He must be able to distinguish between the exceptionally gifted and the idiot.
The psychology of learning occupies a most important aspect of educational psychology. The teacher should know how to control and condition the learning of the child, and programme his teaching materials accordingly. The process of learning leads the teacher to various other allied aspects of learning, like attention, interest, memory, motivation, diagnosis of disabilities in learning various subjects, fatigue and boredom, etc.
The teacher will have to assess the child’s attainments. Hence, he must be acquainted with modern principles of evaluation, and a knowledge of psychometry is essential. In this way, we see, the scope of educational psychology is a vast one. It is a growing science and is continuously enriching itself through results of various researches on the learner and learning situations. Mckeen Cattell defined psychology as what the psychologists do. Similarly we may put the question, in what spheres educational psychology is used by the teachers?
To Quote Gates and Jersild:
“Educational psychology has developed rapidly during the past quarter century … Although the principles of general psychology drawn upon extensively and frequently applied to education, there is now an extensive literature describing results of actual experimental tryouts of the suggested applications. Applications themselves must be subjected to experimental test … Educational Psychology assumes a large responsibility for this function of trying out, experimentally, the application of general psychology, to education.”
In case of the general psychologist the purpose is to build up a body of general scientific principles, in the case of educational psychologist, the purpose is to develop professional practices of a maximum value. Thus, though an independent, science educational psychology draws its materials from different branches of psychology like child psychology, physiological psychology, social and abnormal psychology, mental hygiene, psychometry and sociometry, besides general psychology.
A Few Quotations on Educational Psychology:
“Educational Psychology is the investigation of teaching and study using psychological concepts and methods”—Encyclopedia Britannica.
“Educational psychology at first was the handmaiden of educational reform … Komensky (1592-1670), Pestalozzi, Rousseau and other great prophets of educational advance looked about them for the facts that would support their beloved projects. This was the fatal limitation of all arm-chair theorizing” … “The educational psychologist of today does not wait until useful principles emerge from studies pursued from other ends. Instead, he investigates independently the psychological aspects of all educational problems. In doing so, he does indeed bring to bear any principles, any methods of investigation elaborated elsewhere in the science of psychology, if these bid fair to serve his purpose, but he does not hesitate to modify them or develop new ones as needed. A very real contribution to psychological methods as well as important facts and conclusions has resulted from this rigorous attack upon the practical problems of education.”—Educational Psychology by Horace B. English.
Anne Anastasi distinguishes the functions of psychologists in the field of education as that of school psychologists and educational psychologists. The function of school psychologists is to diagnose the behaviour difficulties of pupils, which involves use of intelligence tests and personality testing, observation, and case study.
There is a controversy as to whether the treatment should be taken up by school psychologists or the psychotherapists or the clinical psychologists. According to her it would be better to leave the treatment to professionals and the school psychologist, while taking up the problems of learning difficulties, for example should work in consultation of the school teachers, and must have a thorough understanding of the educational process, general science of behaviour, with special training in child or developmental psychology, personality adjustment, psychological testing of clinical and counseling methods.
As educational psychology focuses its attention on learning process, it has led to the development of educational technology as well. That is, it provides methodological guidance in the planning and execution of applied research in educational contexts. Secondly, deeper understanding of school learning involves evaluation of educational procedures through applied classroom research, study of motivation, stress and anxiety, active learner participation, feedback and reinforcement, conditions of transfer of learning. The teacher must have the knowledge of psychological testing and interpretation of test scores and simple statistical procedures of handling such scores.
The journals of educational psychology and educational and psychological measurements illustrate the great contributions made by educational psychologists in developing achievement and aptitude tests. The measurement of the pupil’s progress in the school work is an important task of the educational psychologists as well as the teachers, modem education having its goal as the development of a healthy personality and the prevention of emotional maladjustments. Thus, in short, educational psychology must find a place in the course for teacher-training, not only to provide specific ‘rules’ for effective teaching, but to help his understanding of human behaviour.
“A prospective teacher must have knowledge of child behaviour, learning processes, adjustment mechanisms and other relevant areas.” The emphasis on learning process has lead to applied research in educational concepts, and evaluation of educational procedures. Thus, we find that educational psychologists have made great contributions in understanding the child and human behaviour.